Colossians 3: 9

Do not lie to one another, since you stripped off the old self with its evil practices.

This third chapter of Colossians is Paul’s instruction regarding how one’s life changes after accepting Christ. The context is dying to the old self and putting on the new self which is in the image of Jesus. Within that context Paul wrote identifying those things which are part of the old life, the dead life, if you will. He also contrasts those dead things with the characteristics which accrue to the new life in Christ. We have been stripped of that old person with its dead, corrupt ways and lying is one of the traits which must be buried.

It is not a surprise that lying is one of the old dead habits of an unregenerate soul. If asked, most people, even non-believers would identify lying as an undesirable trait. However, if you listen to unguarded talk and watch the actual behaviors of people, you will very likely conclude that lying is not as abhorrent in actual practice as it is philosophically. In fact, I believe you will discover that lying is actually acceptable in many circles, especially in certain circumstances.

My purpose in writing about this today is to suggest that there is no such thing as an innocent lie. Clearly Paul’s teaching leads to this conclusion. Additionally, Jesus’ teachings are definitive in this regard. There is no such thing as a white lie. They are all black, ugly, and destructive. It is not acceptable to lie and then say, “Oh, I was just kidding.” Truth is a value, and a necessary Christian value.

Having written all this, I readily admit that I am preaching to the choir. You are the people who already know this and who model Jesus’ truths. However, we need to extend our reach. We need to encourage one another. Telling the truth isn’t always convenient and sometimes there are consequences we wish not to face. None the less, God always knows when we lie and lying in His face is an even greater consequence. So you might be the person who needs to help someone else tell the truth when it is uncomfortable to do so. You are also teachers and leaders and so you have a voice which influences others. As we influence others, we all need to encourage, and teach people to speak truths. Teach, train and expect others to value truth too.

Do not lie to one another because that is part of the old self which is supposed to have died and been buried. We have been raised up with Christ and are putting on the new self, which is redeemed in his blood and reflected as an image of his character. Strength, truth and grace to you today!

Help! I’m Dying

Romans 12: 2

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

What is a Christian? At one level it is a very easy question to answer. At another level, we believe there is more to being a Christian than merely our beliefs and our confession. I have heard more than one person say of another Christian, “He/she isn’t much of a Christian.” I think what people mean by this is that there are behavioral aspects that we expect of Christians and, unfortunately, sometimes we don’t measure up. Face it, we don’t even measure up to our own expectations. Changing our behaviors is difficult, but I have good news today. We have failed in changing ourselves because we have gone about it the wrong way, but we can alter our course and our method today.

Most of us first attempt to change through the force of our will. Willpower, though, can only get us so far. No, the way to go isn’t actually through changing our habits and behaviors at all. The successful path is through Romans 12: 2. It is not a matter of will but of transformation. It turns out that what makes a Christian is the surrender to transformation. It is humility. As we humble ourselves to the Lord Jesus, he is able to cause the caterpillar we are to transform into the butterfly we were created to be.

This level of humility, however, is not for cowards. It turns out that submitting our will to Jesus is one of the hardest things we will ever do. We don’t want to die to self. Our natural inclination is to elevate and promote self. When people talk of dying to self, if they have gone through the process themselves, they know that the word “die” is appropriate. It is a death and therefore not easy. This level of humility is not easy either. However, this is what it means to be a Christian. This is the crux of the Christian walk. It is when we set aside what we want for ourselves and our lives in favor of what Jesus commands.

How willing are you to be commanded by anyone? How easy, or difficult, is it for you to take orders or even direction? If we truly believe Jesus is Lord, then we are to obey him. That can be a tough pill to swallow. This is true Christianity. It is the death of me as an individual even as, in Jesus, I am resurrected in grace.

Humility is not a popular concept these days.  Nonetheless, let this be a call to radical humility in Christ Jesus who is Lord. Assist us Lord as we cry, “Help me Lord, I’m dying.” Show us your power in grace and mercy as we humble ourselves to your transformative process in our souls. Lead us in your way and show us your glory as we humbly submit to your divine makeover. Let your blanket of calming anointing settle on us as you bless us with your presence. Amen.

Rightful Reliance

Habakkuk 2: 4

Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.

There are quite a few observations we can receive from the prophet Habakkuk. One of the first is that the proud person and the righteous person are not one in the same. That may seem obvious but perhaps we have not yet made that connection intellectually. We can be either arrogant or righteous but not both.

Secondly, Habakkuk tells us that an arrogant or proud person is not right on the inside. There is something amiss in their soul. This is really tragic. There is damage on the inside and this damage or unresolved injury prevents this person from being righteous. Now in the New Testament, Jesus is our righteousness so one might argue that righteousness still belongs to the arrogant or self-centered person because of Jesus. The problem with that argument is that this righteousness, which was purchased for us by Jesus, must still be received. The arrogant person can no more receive the grace of God’s righteousness through Jesus than he was able to do under the old covenant. God has always been the source of righteousness. We must die to self, take our eyes off of ourselves and live unto Christ if we want to walk in the blessing of Christ. All the blessings are provided for us but they are “in Christ” where we too are supposed to be. We cannot be into ourselves and into Christ. One might even ask how a person can be a Christian, a follower of The Way, with eyes, motivation and passion focused on oneself instead of on the Christ.

Lastly, the self-absorbed person cannot live by faith. Faith is in the rightness provided for us in Christ Jesus. That means that an arrogant person cannot also be a person of faith. This person, even if he confesses to be a Christian will be unable to live and walk under the umbrella of faith. Faith begins with Jesus. Faith comes through an end to self-reliance and a surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of Christ (Romans 10: 17). Faith, therefore, requires submission to the person of Jesus. Faith requires that we put our egos, ideas, thoughts, reasonings and truly all that we are behind the words of Christ. That necessarily means that we cannot be self-absorbed, self-impressed or self-sustaining and also reliant on the person and words of Jesus. We must take the idol of our intellect off of the throne of our hearts and ensconce Jesus there.

Not one of us wants to admit that we are arrogant because only fools are such. Whatsmore, I may find it quite easy to lie to myself in this regard, but here is the question I must consider, that is, not whether I believe or think myself to be arrogant but rather what others may say about me. If I can be completely honest with myself do I suspect that others might find me self-impressed. Oh dear God in heaven, save me from myself. Repentance brings the oil of gladness and repentance means nothing more than turning and going the other way, it means a change of heart, a change of mind. It does not mean travail or moaning and groaning. Just let Jesus and his word change your way of thinking. Be saved by the renewal of your thoughts, by the refreshing of your mind and be free from the burden of yourself.

Empty Vessels

Philippians 2: 5 -7

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

There is a whole bunch of theology tied up in this verse but I wish to focus on a more narrow aspect of this verse today and suggest a way it applies to each of us.

This scripture tells us that Jesus emptied himself. It is talking about his removing the robe of his deity and taking on the garment of human flesh. I am taken aback by this idea of him emptying himself. What shall we imagine; perhaps a container of some sort? Let’s picture a clear 2 liter bottle. Imagine the bottle full of green liquid. Now pick it up and pour out half of the contents. Half of what that bottle knew and contained is now gone. However, the bottle is not empty is it? So, pour out all but one drop. Okay, the bottle is effectively empty. Most of what it held and what gave it the biggest part of its value is now gone. Still though, the bottle is not completely empty is it? So, let’s pour out the last drop and for argument’s sake all you physicists, let’s not consider the air that rushes in to fill the void. The bottle was a container for green liquid and now that the last drop has been poured out the bottle is truly empty.

Have you ever felt the way that bottle must feel at this point? Have you felt empty? If you have then you would likely say it is not a feeling you would pursue. None the less, Jesus emptied himself of everything he was and everything he knew in order to be the lamb we required. That had to be a pretty intense experience. Here you are part of the Godhead and then you become empty.

So, here is my point. I believe that we are supposed to, in like manner, empty ourselves so that we can be renewed in his image. We shuck off the old self and put on the new person which has been made in the image of Christ himself. It is sort of the reverse process that Jesus went through. He put on flesh and we must crucify our flesh and take on his nature. It seems to me that we can only be renewed into this new creation which is our right and our destiny to the degree that we empty ourselves of the old person. The more we empty ourselves, the more we can be filled. We like to hold onto the familiar, but this I believe, we will be much happier, more successful, and more fulfilled the more we pour out ourselves unto him. Empty vessels are good. Just ask the widow in 2 Kings 4: 1 – 7. When we present God with empty vessels He fills them with oil. Be filled today!

The Seed of Life

John 12: 24

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

No one wants to die but if we die to Jesus, giving him our lives, then we are born anew of incorruptible seed which bears much fruit.

Jesus was talking about giving up his life, dying, so that he might bear much fruit. Only through death does the wheat generate new life. So it is with us. When we lay down our lives God creates a new life with that seed. We are reborn in the image of Christ. This is not, however, primarily a salvation message unless you embrace the full definition of salvation. When Jesus speaks of salvation he means saving grace in absolutely every area of our lives, in every aspect of human experience. 

Paul wrote about this need to lay down our lives and live to Christ. He said “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4: 22, 24). You see, there must be a continual surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. We must continually bury our self-induced desires and put on the mantle of Christ. In other words, this dying to self is, at least for most of us, a continuing process. Few people have the ability to once and for all give everything to Christ. Typically we grow in our spiritual life and as we do we find things which we are ready to release to him. The central theme is that we must crucify this flesh which seeks only to indulge self. It seeks to satisfy and promote the ego. When, however, we take on the crucifixion of our Lord, we bury the selfish desires and live unto him. We seek to honor and promote him. The only way to do this, though, is to die. And when we do, he raises us anew. Each time we bury a self-oriented aspect of our personalities he raises up a glorified version. Then there is no more striving for then we can truly walk in his grace. Our eyes become fixed on him and we live in him. 

This may sound mystical and other worldly but it really is as simple as taking our eyes off of ourselves. We may notice how often we use the pronoun “I” and surrender those areas to our Christ. We may notice when our vision is full of ourselves instead of on the kingdom and pray for help in crucifying the carnal person. The key is that when we die, we live. Everything that we bury, Jesus resurrects in new and glorious life. We never lose anything. We gain everything.

Please search your heart today. Is your energy spent satisfying your needs and desires or are you truly devoted to Christ today? Is he your focus and desire? Is your work dedicated to him, your leisure, your home life, your thought life? Are your songs a testimony to him? How about the words you speak? I am not saying that you cannot have anything for yourself. I am only saying for you to let him give them to you instead of you seeking them.

Life in Death

2 Corinthians 4: 10           NIV

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

I will begin by honestly confessing that I do not understand the depth of this verse so I offer it to you for your contemplation. Why does Paul admittedly carry around the death of Christ in his body?

Allow me to show you this passage in context from the New American Standard Bible beginning with verse 8: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” This version shows us that Paul didn’t just carry around the death of Christ in his body but the reality of the dying of Jesus. Paul uses a progressive tense. The truth of Jesus’ death is a continuing reality in Paul and through that the ongoing and increasing life of Christ manifested in his life and in his body.

There is life in death. That is Paul’s ultimate message. He and his team were constantly in peril of death but he shows us that though they were afflicted and persecuted those afflictions and persecutions were not the end of the story. The life of Christ in them sustained them so that they were never crushed, despairing, forsaken or destroyed. In here we see the parable of the sower and the seed. Jesus laid down his life. He died but in his death was the seed, the seed of life. He laid down his life and arose with life eternal. When we receive the death of Christ as a personal reality then we also die. We die to ourselves and arise to the life of Christ. We crucify our flesh in a way which is similar to Jesus’ crucifixion. Then we bury the old self and arise a new person in Christ Jesus.

However, this passage leads one to conclude that this is not a once and for all procedure. Paul said that they were “always carrying about . . . the dying of Jesus.” That event became written on Paul’s DNA. He was crucified with Christ and that reality was imprinted in his body. Since he carried an always present impression of the dying of Christ in his body, there was always a constant regeneration of the life of Christ in his body as well. The life of Christ was not just given to us as in a past tense event. No, the life of Christ is continually manifesting in the children of light. His presence within us is constantly renewed. It is growing as we allow more of his death and ours to permeate every cell of our bodies. So, the more we yield to death, the more life is generated. Crazy huh? But that is how a seed works. Through death it yields life. The more seeds you can convince to die, the greater your harvest will be. Hence, the more we die to self the more we live to Christ which simply means the more of Christ’s life and the fullness of who he is manifests in our experience. His breath becomes our breath. His life permeates our muscles. He becomes the strength in our bones and sinew so that we are in a constant state of regeneration. Life from death. If you would live, then you must die. If you want life continuously renewing in your body then you must continuously give yourself over to the dying of Christ. Carrying Christ’s death in your body is like having a seed planter within you which is constantly sowing life. You will be in a constant state of reaping. You only have to die to live.